How To Know If You're Working Out Too Much (And What To Do Instead)
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.
While there's a pretty large gap between working out and not working out, there's a very fine line between working out in a way that's beneficial to us and working out so much that we're overdoing it. For the sake of our bodies, we have to know when enough is enough. Of course, it's easy to say and harder to do (who could say no to stress relief and endorphins?).
Here's how to know if you're exercising too much—and what you should do instead.
Signs that you could be working out too much.
The first place to look when assessing your exercise frequency is at your energy levels. How do you feel on a day-to-day basis? How do you feel before and after your workouts? Refreshed and revitalized, or drained and depleted? If it's the latter, it could be time to adjust your workout routine.
"One of the first signs you are working out too much is adrenal fatigue—feeling taxed throughout the day," says Nora Tobin, a performance coach and nutrition specialist. "No amount of coffee will correct your energy levels when your adrenals are depleted."
Another symptom of working out too much is (surprisingly) unexplained weight gain. This is because working out puts stress on the body, and when you do so too much, that stress can make you gain weight, particularly in your abdominals.
"If cortisol (a stress hormone) is too high, it will pull from other parts of the body to compensate, such as thyroid and estrogen/testosterone," Tobin says. "Even if we are eating the right foods, the hormone imbalance caused by overexercising will cause weight gain and energy crashes."
How to treat (and prevent) fatigue and burnout.
Fatigue, low energy, and weight gain are serious symptoms that alter your quality of life, but they're avoidable if you make a few changes to your workouts. First, if you're doing the same workout over and over again, especially a high-intensity workout, stop. Switching it up is crucial to avoiding burnout, both mentally and physically.
If you can't imagine giving up your high-intensity workouts, then the best way to reduce symptoms is to scale back on strenuous workouts and integrate lighter ones.
"A quick way to address the issue of fatigue is to shift your HIIT workouts or any high-energy exercises to every other day and limit them to 40 minutes max," says Tobin. "On the alternate days, perform any low-intensity workouts such as yoga, walking, Pilates, or moderate aerobic activity. You will recover much faster, lower inflammation, and see far greater results."
Tobin recommends doing HIIT workouts three days a week, with three days of low-intensity workouts in between—in addition to a rest day or low-impact recovery day, which could mean taking a long walk, unwinding in a sauna, doing some restorative yoga, or trying a new low-impact workout.
The symptoms associated with overexercising are no joke and certainly not something to ignore. So if you feel like your body is sending you STOP signs, the best advice we have is to listen.
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